Divided To The Vein: A Journey into Race and Family

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs on 2013-02-18 17:48Z by Steven

Divided To The Vein: A Journey into Race and Family

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
320 pages
Hardcover ISBN-10: 0151931070; ISBN-13: 978-0151931071

Scott Minerbrook

Scott Minerbrook’s parents hail from opposite ends of the cultural spectrum. His father was a pampered only child born into Chicago’s aspiring black bourgeoisie, while his mother was an idealistic girl from a large family of poor white Missouri farmers. Minerbrook grew up in the 1950s and ’60s, in a world that was fighting the grim realities of racial separatism and willful ignorance with the ideals of equality and integration. At home, his parents fought each other and a host of personal demons, even as they raised four boys, excelled in their careers, and moved from Chicago, to Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and finally to the leafy suburbs of Connecticut. Minerbrook completed his schooling at Harvard’s burgeoning African-American studies department and went on to raise a family of his own. But by the time he reached his late thirties, he was no longer satisfied with living an emotional half-life, rejecting and rejected by so much of his flesh and blood. He set out for his mother’s hometown in the Botheel of Missouri, determined to claim the white relatives who had refused to recognize his existence. Despite their desire to “keep things just as they are”, he knew that bringing down the daunting barrier called race was essential to his humanity and to theirs. In the course of his journey, Minerbrook takes a hard look at his upbringing and the lives of his parents. He digs deep to explore the meaning of family, the roots of identity, and the reasons why we lay so many basic human problems at the door of race. Lyrically written, painfully honest, psychologically and socially astute, this powerful memoir challenges us all to confront the divisive cult of race and to move beyond it.

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Multiracial Americans Ready To Claim Their Own Identity

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2012-05-16 22:07Z by Steven

Multiracial Americans Ready To Claim Their Own Identity

The New York Times

Michel Marriott

For Alison Perry, being multiracial has meant moving through life as if she had a giant question mark drawn on her forehead. Strangers frequently approach and begin a vexing guessing game: “Are you Israeli?” “Are you a Latina?” “Where are you from?”

Yet for this slender, almond-colored woman with delicate features drawn from both her black-American father and her Italian-American mother, race is not what defines her.

“I definitely say that I’m interracial,” Ms. Perry said. “I do not identify myself as a black woman. I definitely don’t identify myself as a white woman, either.”

The very existence of multiracial people like Ms. Perry challenges this nation’s traditionally rigid notions of race…

…”People of mixed race in this country haven’t belonged anywhere,” said Charles Byrd, editor and publisher of Interracial Voice, an Internet news journal based in Queens that has backed the march. “The march will, in effect, allow people to come out and be themselves—not just be black, not just be white, but just be a human being.”…

…Forced Choices And No Choices

Increasingly, multiracial people are arguing—and many scientists agree—that race is a social construct, not a biological absolute. Many historians and social scientists, said Steven Gregory, a professor of anthropology and Africana studies at New York University, believe that the notion of race was largely invented as a way to assign social status and privilege.

Unlike sex, which is determined by the X or Y chromosome, there is no genetic marker for race. Indeed, a 1972 study by a Harvard University geneticist, Richard Lewontin, found that most genetic differences were within racial groups, not between them. He could trace only 6 percent of such differences to race.

Yet in the closing years of the 20th century, race remains a stubbornly resistant feature of this nation’s culture. Other societies, like those of some islands of the Caribbean and some South American countries, have a more fluid sense of racial identity. In Jamaica, for example, when people speak of color, they are referring to skin tone, not inalterable racial categories, said Cecile Ann Lawrence, a lawyer who was a government administrator in Jamaica.

But in the United States, race even divides multiracial people themselves. While some proudly claim their multiracial identity, others believe it is a sham, an effort to identify with the dominant, and privileged, white culture at the expense of a stigmatized minority.

“There is a tremendous amount of denial,” said Scott Minerbrook, whose father is black and whose mother white, but who considers himself black. Mr. Minerbrook, who is on the staff of Time magazine and lives in Islip, N.Y., says that many people “fall into the trap that they don’t want to be identified with failure; they think blackness equals failure.” But there is no escape, he argues; that is how the rest of the world labels multiracial children.

Some multiracial Americans believe, as Anthony Robert Hale, a graduate student in American literature at the University of California at Berkeley, said, that “in most cases, ‘mixed race’ means no race.”…

…Some Are Forging A Different Path

Regardless of society’s labels, many multiracial people are determined to set their own courses. Ms. Perry, who was an anthropology major at Wesleyan University, has learned to regard the American obsession with race with a degree of detachment, even tolerance. But she herself still defies categorization.

At Wesleyan, she was drawn to other interracial students, a well-organized and relatively large group on campus. She said she never felt part of the black community there.

Nonetheless, she joined a West African dance troupe at Wesleyan and traveled with it to Ghana. In Africa, she recalled with a chuckle, she was considered white. She also began dating one of the dance troupe’s drummers, who is white and Jewish….

Read the entire article here.

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